Friday, October 30, 2020

REVIEW: Enola Holmes: The Case of the Missing Marquess (book) by Nancy Springer

Enola Holmes and the Case of the Missing Marquess is either a YA or Middle Grade historical mystery, depending on where you check. The writing felt Middle Grade to me, but due to some of the content (Enola stumbling across the poor beggar woman whose scalp had been completely taken over with ringworm, for example), I'd say probably the older end of the Middle Grade range or younger end of YA. 

This is the first book in Springer's Enola Holmes series, and the book upon which the new Netflix movie was based. I bought my copy of this brand new.


On Enola's fourteenth birthday, her mother disappears. Once she realizes what's happened and that her mother is nowhere nearby, Enola contacts her older brothers, Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes, who she hasn't seen since she was four, figuring that they, as brilliant as they are, could help. Instead, they seem more concerned about the condition of the estate and what Enola has been doing for the past ten years. Mycroft had been sending their mother funds for household expenses since their father died ten years ago, and she had apparently been squirreling that money away for her eventual escape. Enola, who is not pleased with Mycroft's plans to send her to boarding school, can understand her motive for what she did, but there is one question she desperately wants answered: why didn't her mother bring her with her when she left?

Using the gifts her mother left for her, Enola sets off to try answer that question but stumbles across a completely different mystery in the process: the missing Viscount Tewksbury, Marquess of Basilwether.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

REVIEW: So I'm a Spider, So What?, Vol. 3 (book) by Okina Baba, illustrated by Tsukasa Kiryu, translated by Jenny McKeon

So I'm a Spider, So What? is fantasy, specifically isekai. It's licensed by Yen Press under their Yen On imprint. I bought my copy brand new.

This review includes slight spoilers.


Spider MC continues her quest to find a way out of the Middle Stratum and hopefully out of the labyrinth entirely. Unfortunately, she has discovered one of the drawbacks of defeating the fire wyrm at the end of the previous book: she's now so powerful and fearsome that weaker monsters avoid her, making it difficult for her to find food. And even then, there are still monsters around who are scarier and much more powerful than she is, namely Mother (the massive spider who gave birth to her) and Earth Dragon Araba.

Shun, meanwhile, has inherited the Hero title after his beloved older brother's death. The Hero title isn't normally passed down to members of the same family, so Shun never expected to become the next one and doesn't feel like he's even close to being as amazing as his brother was. Unfortunately, some shocking developments upend his life even further.

Monday, October 26, 2020

REVIEW: Rookie Historian Goo Hae-Ryung (live action TV series)

Rookie Historian Goo Hae-Ryung is a Korean historical drama with romantic aspects. I watched it on Netflix.

This is set during the Joseon dynasty. Goo Hae-Ryung is an intelligent young woman who, rather than getting married, wants to become one of the first female historians in the royal court. Meanwhile, Prince Dowon, the less beloved younger son of the king, has spent his life confined to the palace, not permitted to take part in politics or life in the royal court. He passes the time by secretly writing wildly popular romance novels and can't stand it when he overhears Hae-Ryung's less-than-positive assessment of them. 

After Hae-Ryung becomes an apprentice historian, her and Prince Dowon's paths become intertwined. Together, they eventually uncover the secrets at the root of both their pasts.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

REVIEW: The Twisted Ones (audiobook) by T. Kingfisher, narrated by Hillary Huber

The Twisted Ones is horror/dark fantasy. I first read a paper copy a few months ago, and I recently listened to the audio version via an Overdrive.


Melissa, called Mouse by everyone who knows her, is asked by her dad to go clean out her dead grandmother's house. What her dad failed to mention was that her grandmother was a hoarder. The house is horrible, but not a biohazard, so Mouse hunkers down and gets to work, with her hound Bongo for company.

One of the things Mouse finds is her stepgrandfather's journal. He showed signs of dementia, and Mouse's grandmother was almost certainly abusing him, preventing him from sleeping and taking things that were important to him. However, there are also signs that he might have known about something strange going on in the area, something connected to the hill that shouldn't exist that Mouse and Bongo accidentally stumble across.

REVIEW: Dewey Decimated (book) by Charles A. Goodrum

Dewey Decimated is the first book in Goodrum's Werner-Bok Library Mysteries series. I checked it out from my library.


Betty Crighton Jones (called Crighton from here on out) is the press officer for the Werner-Bok Library in Washington, D.C. Some recent developments are making her job particularly stressful. Anonymous letters sent to various members of the media claim that several of the Werner-Bok's rare books are, in fact, fakes, and it's starting to put the Library's reputation at risk. Not only that, but Murchison DeVeer, the Head of the Manuscripts Division, claims he knows that something fishy is going on in the Rare Books Division. 

In a effort to deal with the anonymous note situation as quietly and quickly as possible, the library director, Brooks, invites Dr. George, a respected retired librarian, to look into the situation in the guise of doing research for a book. Brooks assigns Crighton to be George's guide/assistant. Shortly before George arrives, however, DeVeer ends up dead in an apparent accident. Was DeVeer the one responsible for the notes, and is the problem now solved? Or is something more sinister going on?

Sunday, October 18, 2020

REVIEW: Zombies: A Record of the Year of Infection (audiobook) by Don Roff, narrated by Stephen R. Thorne (and others)

Zombies: A Record of the Year of Infection is horror, with enough focus on the science of zombies that you could also call it science fiction. I checked my copy out via one of my library Overdrive accounts.

This review includes major spoilers.


Dr. Robert Twombly is a biologist who attempts to deal with the sudden zombie apocalypse by keeping a record of his experiences, in the hope that it might help others. The audiobook is set up like it's his field recording (we're told that he has several boxes of batteries - somehow he manages to lug these around with him wherever he goes). Although Twombly's account is the primary focus, he occasionally finds traveling companions whose stories he also records. This came across more like an audio drama, with occasional background sounds, than an audiobook (based on its Goodreads page, the print version may be a graphic novel?).

REVIEW: So I'm a Spider, So What? (book, vol. 2) by Okina Baba, illustrated by Tsukasa Kiryu, translated by Jenny McKeon

So I'm a Spider, So What? is a Japanese fantasy novel, specifically isekai (portal fantasy, basically). It's published by Yen On. I bought my copy brand new.

This review includes mild spoilers.


Spider MC is back, and she's finally made it to the Middle Stratum. Unfortunately for her, it's filled with pools of magma and fire-wielding monsters, and she's incredibly weak against fire. Not only that, but her spider silk burns up in seconds, meaning that her primary weapon is now useless. However, going back to the Lower Stratum doesn't seem like a good option, so she's going to have to focus on leveling up her other skills and get creative in order to survive and eventually make it back to the Upper Stratum.

Meanwhile, Shun, Katia, and Sue are now training at a special academy, and Shun and Katia have met most of the other reincarnated students that Ms. Oka talked about. However, there are two remaining ones that she refuses to say anything about. For some reason, they cannot be brought to the academy. While Shun is training, Julius, Shun's Hero older brother, is off fighting high-level monsters and growing increasingly concerned about the potential for a large-scale war.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

REVIEW: Winchester (live action movie)

Winchester is a historical horror movie originally released in 2018. I watched it on Netflix.

This review includes spoilers.


Dr. Eric Price is a man haunted by the death of his wife. At the behest of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, he agrees to stay at Sarah Winchester's mansion in order to evaluate her mental health. Sarah has been having her mansion renovated nonstop for a while now, and she claims her family is cursed to be haunted by the shadows or ghosts of those killed by her company's firearms. As Dr. Price attempts to investigate what he views as Sarah's delusions, he becomes concerned about Sarah's young nephew.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

REVIEW: Kaguya-sama: Love Is War (manga, vol. 1) by Aka Akasaka, translated by Emi Louie-Nishikawa

Kaguya-sama: Love Is War is a romantic comedy series licensed by VIZ. I bought my copy brand new.


Kaguya Shinomiya is elite Shuchiin Academy's student council vice president. Her family is wealthy and influential, and Kaguya is a highly intelligent girl who is used to viewing every interaction as a potential power struggle. Miyuki Shirogane is the student council president. His family is neither wealthy nor influential, but he's dedicated to his studies and still manages to earn everyone's respect.

There is a rumor going around that Kaguya and Miyuki are going out. In reality, although they're both secretly interested in each other, neither one is willing to admit it. Kaguya views love as a battle in which the first one to confess is the loser, and Miyuki is keenly aware of the difference in their classes and thinks Kaguya is constantly looking down on him. Neither of them wants to lose by being the first to confess to the other.

REVIEW: Twelve Angry Librarians (book) by Miranda James

Twelve Angry Librarians is the 8th book in James' A Cat in the Stacks cozy mystery series. I bought my copy used.


Due to events in the previous book (which I haven't read and which this book's text was vague about, probably to avoid spoilers for those reading the series out of order), Charlie Harris is now the interim library director at Athena College's library. This year's Southern Academic Libraries Association (SALA) conference is being held at Athena College, so Charlie has that on his plate, as well various personal concerns. His interim position is prompting him to think whether he might want to be library director on a more permanent basis, his daughter and her husband might be moving away shortly after she gives birth, and his son's wife is also pregnant.

Charlie is less than pleased when he learns that one of the conference's keynote speakers is Gavin Fong, a slimeball who hit on his wife back in library school and was generally unpleasant. It doesn't take long to see that Gavin hasn't improved over the years, and he manages to make a few more people angry before dying, apparently of cyanide poisoning.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

REVIEW: Enola Holmes (live action movie)

Enola Holmes is a historical mystery movie based on Nancy Springer's Middle Grade book The Case of the Missing Marquess, the first in Springer's Enola Holmes series. The movie is a Netflix Original.


When Enola Holmes was very young, her father died and her brothers, Mycroft and Sherlock, went off to live their own lives, leaving her and her mother alone together. Enola's mother had very unique ideas about how to raise a young girl, and so instead of having a governess and learning how to be a proper young lady, Enola instead read every book in the family library, learned to fight, and solved cryptograms and word jumbles.

And then, on the morning of her sixteenth birthday, Enola's mother vanishes. She clearly left of her own free will, and Enola is distraught - she had thought she and her mother were happy together, so why did her mother leave her behind? Mycroft and Holmes arrive in order to assess the situation and deal with her. Mycroft intends to send Enola to a finishing school and Holmes clearly intends to stand back and let him. In the nick of time, Enola discovers some messages her mother left for her and escapes to London, hoping to track her mother down herself. While doing this, she becomes embroiled in another mystery, that of the missing young Viscount Tewkesbury.

REVIEW: The Fate of Mercy Alban (audiobook) by Wendy Webb, narrated by Kristen Potter

The Fate of Mercy Alban is a blend of horror and mystery but does not, I think, qualify as gothic fiction. I checked it out via one of the library Overdrive accounts I have access to.

This review includes major spoilers. If you'd like to read a spoiler-tagged version, I cross-post on Goodreads and LibraryThing.


Years ago, Grace Alban left her family home, determined to escape the painful events that haunted her. The unexpected death of her mother brings her back to Alban House, with her teen daughter in tow. It turns out that Grace's mother had intended to tell a reporter about some of the Alban family's secrets. Was it the Alban family's curse that killed her?

As Grace tries to figure out what the next steps will be for her and Alban House and introduces her daughter to some of Alban House's more benign secrets (nifty secret passageways), she begins to uncover things about her family that even she was unaware of.

REVIEW: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (book) by Susanna Clarke, illustrations by Portia Rosenberg

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is historical fantasy. I bought my copy used.


The book begins in 1806. Although England still has magicians, they are all simply theoretical magicians, endlessly discussing, writing about, and researching the topic. They occasionally discuss the loss of practical magic, but it's the existence of Mr. Norrell that really shines a light on that topic, because Mr. Norrell is rumored to be an actual practical magician. He is also generally inclined to stay at home, with his enormous library. At least until he finally decides to venture outside and restore magic to England. 

However, Mr. Norrell is very particular about how he'd like magic to be restored. He believes that he is the only one fit to practice it, and his ideas about magic are the only ones fit to be in print. He manages to make most of England's theoretical magicians abandon their studies and becomes determined to be England's most important (and only) practical magician, aiding his country in the Napoleonic Wars. In his desire to gain the right connections, he does something that seems wondrous at first but gradually becomes a terrible act that affects multiple people's lives.

Approximately 100 pages into this, Jonathan Strange is finally introduced, and approximately 100 pages after that Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell finally meet. A bit of carelessness on Mr. Norrell's part has resulted in Strange being England's second practical magician, and he eventually becomes Mr. Norrell's student. He's a very different sort of person and magician: better able to make friends and relate to others, and more willing to adapt and try new magic.

Although Strange and Norrell initially get along well enough (Norrell admires Strange and Strange puts up with Norrell), the differences in their personalities and approaches to magic, as well as Norrell's secrets, eventually drives a wedge between them. Their story eventually becomes the story of English magic.